The French have been short of cycling heroes for a while now, but often had mixed emotions when they did have a great talent to celebrate. Jacques Anquetil, the blond, chiselled-featured Norman who became the first man to win the Tour de France five times, was a prodigiously gifted and versatile rider who dominated the sport for more than a decade from the mid-Fifties.
Yet his perceived hauteur, mercenary attitude and openly admitted drug use inspired respect rather than affection. It was not so chez Anquetil, though; he seduced then married his best friend's wife, later fathering a child by his stepdaughter and having another with his stepson's ex-wife before dying of cancer at 53. To his credit, Paul Howard has not allowed Anquetil's astonishing love life to overwhelm his equally extraordinary career, producing an impeccably researched book that is far more measured than its sensationalist title suggests.
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